… and how those around me influence my actions.

Hello all.

Wow, I haven’t posted since May.

In between moving back from Sydney to Christchurch, changing my relationship status, moving house again, and starting a new job, I guess I haven’t had much in the way of time.

Well, I’m back now. With observations.

So, moving away from a relationship, surrounding myself in old, familiar friends and an office full of new people have opened my eyes to my own extroversion. I feed off the energy of others. Not to say I don’t enjoy my own company, but my mood and behaviour is greatly affected by the mood and behaviour of those around me. This couldn’t be more apparent when I recently moved into my new flat.

During my time in Australia, I spent most of it playing video games. This was partially because my partner was a video gamer and it was an activity we could do together. My love for video games began years ago, and developed independently of him, but I did see an increase in the activity when we moved in together. As soon as I packed up and moved back into Christchurch, returning to the house I grew up in, I stopped playing video games, and found myself demolishing book after book. I had returned to the embrace of the family library, discussing novels with my parents, and relaxing in the evening with my kindle perched on my knee. I played the occasional round of Titanfall with my brother, but it was no longer the immediate hobby of choice.

Now, having moved in with my incredibly nerdy flatmates, I’m spending my off-hours devouring movies, TV and anime. It has been years since I allowed my love of anime to thrive, and it turns out that I have a lot of catching up to do. It also gives me the chance to tackle my nerdy cross-stitch – which is coming along nicely, thanks for asking.

I have an incredibly diverse list of hobbies, ranging from politics and science to linguists, to languages and media, to art and aesthetics, and across a vast range of nerdy pop culture. I don’t like these things to seem smart, or to pick up guys, or because I’m indecisive, or because I’m not particularly passionate about anything. (Yes, I have been accused of all of those things). I like so many different things because I am genuinely interested in so much.

Admittedly, this doesn’t really have a point – it’s a brief rant to all those haters out there who have at some point accused me of not being a real gamer girl, or only acting like a geek, or not being particularly smart, or just making me feel like I have to pick one thing to spend all my time and efforts in, and never again enjoying anything else. It’s my damn life. I’ll love what I love, and I don’t need someone coming in, attempting to steer my own thoughts.

 

</rant>

Now here’s a picture of a kitten, and a promise to have something geeky up soon.

… and why I have a God complex.

A game review of Banished.

I think I have a God complex.

If I look back over the years, on the games that I have played obsessively, most involve watching tiny animated people whizzing around on daily business, as I watch from my comfortable computer chair, carefully adjusting their little world to my liking. And, when I get sick of them, I just lock them in a tiny room and delete the door, or cut off their access to a hospital, or unleash a great plague upon their world and watch as society crumbles into chaos.

Like I said, God complex.

But Banished is different. You begin with a little society of about ten families who have been kicked out of their original home and are forced to settle in a remote and isolated world. You set them to work, chopping down trees, mining rock, and gathering resources; achieving those short term goals until you can build them their means to survive. Sometimes it takes time – you don’t quite balance everything perfectly, and half your town dies of starvation on the tenth winter. But you re-build, and watch generations grow and work and die so their children may have a better tomorrow. Your heart goes out to these people.

Which is why it is all the more devastating when things go wrong.

And things go wrong all the time, whether it be disasters, disease or your own incompetence. Then you are forced to watch as gravestone after gravestone pops up on screen, and you flounder, trying to adjust your workers to continue with the manner of living your citizens have become accustomed too. Because, of course, as more of the town dies, not only do you fail at the overall aim of survival, but the fewer workers you have to gather your resources . It is an unforgiving game, and one I sometimes find genuinely difficult. Your success can be utterly dependant on how you play the first ten minutes. What is more important – clothing, or tools? Emotional support, or medicine? Food or shelter?

However, the later game mechanics can be just as cruel. Farms cannot be farmed indefinitely, and will eventually decrease their yield. Fishing wharves will slowly deplete the population of fish. Iron and Stone will also vanish from the world, and you’ll be forced to build giant holes in the ground until you run out of room. And room is precious, as you need forests for lumber, and to collect the necessary herbs used in medicines. Very much like Tropico, SimCity and other games of this particular simulation genre, it whittles down into a numbers game. You have to balance various factors to maximise resource production, and attempt to prevent a feedback loop from ruining your best laid plans. For example, you have to keep up logging production, otherwise you may not only run out of firewood and have your workers freeze to death, but your supply of tools may run out first, reducing resource production all over the bored, including firewood. And your workers will still freeze to death.

The systems have been expertly linked, creating a level of frustration and determination that makes Banished so very rewarding. I never expected that I would punch air the first time I managed to creep my population past the five-hundred mark, but I felt a sense of pride in my self-sufficient little community. It is a game of surprising empathy and rich mechanics, devoid of allegiance to any particular society. It’s just you, and your people, against this little world. And together, you have to overcome the odds, and survive.

Originally posted on Nerdy But Flirty:

As George R. R. Martin continually tries to remind us, it can be hard being born a woman. And yet, so many of his own characters manage to stand up and make use of their talents, despite his constant attempts to strike them down and put them in their place. If you’ve read the books, you can truly appreciate how much stronger these ladies are on our screens, and how, despite their writer, they overcome their obstacles with just as much strength and intelligence as all of those men.

Lady Margaery of House Tyrell

margaery-house-tyrell-34317575-500-700

In her unrelenting attempts to become a Baratheon, the beautiful Lady Margaery is determined to join House Tyrell to the royal family. With the doddering Mace Tyrell as her Lord and father, it’s clear who the brain behind the whole operation really is. Beneath her pretty and kind exterior is a cunning and calculating seductress who knows how…

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…and why it’s going to take every ounce of my being not to spoil it for anyone.

Yes, sorry, I’m one of those fans. I’ve read all the books. So believe me when I tell you that Game of Thrones Season 4 is something I have been waiting for since I read A Storm of Swords. You thought last season was good? Oh kids, you aint seen nothing yet.

Despite my love-hate relationship with George. R. R. Martin, I thoroughly enjoyed the final half of the third book. The pacing was fantastic, the characters were just awesome and shit got real. And not always by simply cutting the heads off a few main characters. Although, that still does happen. I guess it wouldn’t be Game of Thrones otherwise. Don’t worry, I promise I won’t spoil anything – but I will say that the third book has some of the most intriguing storyline progression since the dragons showing up.

Season 4 begins rather peacefully. Tyrion awaits the arrival of House Martel, King Joffery is prancing around like a prat, Daenerys is marching on some poor unsuspecting town with her slave army and dragons, Dario has somehow changed his face, Margery is preparing for her wedding, Sansa is crying, Jamie Lannister realises that things are a little different since he left, and Tywin is still the best contester for the Westeros Father of the Year award.

However, Tumblr and the rest of the internet have finally realised something that I have understood since book 1. That House Martel are just badass. Prince Oberyn, you handsome viper – you are everything I dreamed and more. But it was meeting the first Sand Snake, Ellaria Sand, that got me really excited. Although House Tyrell is ruled by some very cunning ladies, and House Targaryen’s last hope is on the Mother of Dragons, the Sand Snakes of Dorne are some of the most fearsome ladies in all of Westeros and beyond.

“Have you ever been with a Prince?”

obiterocelot:

Been wondering what I’ve been up to this past month?

Originally posted on Nerdy But Flirty:

When we talk about influential sci-fi and fantasy authors, there are a number of names that immediately come to mind. We mention Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Tolkien, Pratchett, Frank Herbert, Lewis Carol, C. S. Lewis — this list could continue infinitely. Although this realm was almost exclusively dominated by men until recently, some extra-special ladies have played a very important part in the development of our favorite genres.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

frank

One of the greatest horror stories of all time, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is also considered the first science fiction novel ever published. It’s about the eccentric doctor, Frankenstein, and the monster he created. Frankenstein has been adapted hundreds of times across all forms of media, and is the inspiration for countless other re-tellings and numerous other monsters following in its wake.

Everyone should have this story on their reading list, if only to learn about the many Frankenstein

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… and why I wish it hadn’t.

a review of the Elder Scrolls Online

A few years back, I worked for the chief video-games retailer in the southern hemisphere – EB Games. The shop was situated in a low socio-economic area, and the busiest shift was Tuesday afternoon because that was when the benefits came in. Most purchases were straight out of the bargain bin, or from people who had crossed town to pick up the last copy of a new release left in the city.

Our store was also often graced with the presence of a WoW subscriber*.

*Disclaimer: this was the title we bestowed upon people who would come into EB Games and, in a rare moment of social interaction, would purchase their WoW subscriptions over the counter. Sadly, they all appeared to fit a very particular stereotype, but I am in no way suggesting that every MMO partaker is like this. Just that some of you are.

You always knew who they were. They would walk into the shop with their head down, sporting a three day old beard regardless of gender, covered in cheesy-snack dust and coke stains on t’shirts that were once white, or maybe black, but have since turned a funny sort of mouldy grey. They breathed through their mouths, and would peruse the shelves coughing and snuffling into a sleeve, before turning to the smiling teenage girl behind the counter, hoping she had been replaced by someone who looked a little more like them. And it was always me behind the counter – my supervisor had an uncanny ability to spot them as they entered, and then would find an excuse to lock himself in the backroom until they left. Only then would he break out, chasing away the stench of B.O. with pine-scented air-freshener and furiously applying hand sanitiser to anything that may have been contaminated, including me.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my first impression of an MMO. It was like seeing the heroin junkie before being offered heroin. Needless to say, I’ve never touched the stuff*. However, when I was offered a key to the most recent The Elder Scrolls Online Beta I had to give it a shot. The name “Elder Scrolls” will always invoke curiosity. Bethesda could release an Elder Scrolls Dress-Up Game and I’d play it**.

*MMOs that is. Oh, and heroin. And I’ve never really been a big fan of fizzy drinks.

** Who wouldn’t?

So, I created my character. I spent an hour oohing and aahing about how pretty I could make them, and trying to decide exactly what sort of character I wanted to play, before rapidly devolving into my favourite default – High Elf who likes to blow stuff up with Fireball. I spent many fond hours on Skyrim furiously back-peddling, necking health potions while I wanted for my mana to regenerate, and I thought I could recreate the experience. They didn’t skimp on character creation either. It’s just as involved as it always has been, with the same races we all know and love. Or hate. I could even cover my High Elf in pretty filigree tattoos, but I was disappointed that I couldn’t make them glow blue like Cortana.

Eventually, I started the game and – oh look, we’re in a dungeon*. Oh look, I’m a prisoner. Oh look, at the dark, morbid scenery. Oh look, wait, what is Dumbledore doing here? See, the problem with using a voice actor with as prolific and distinctive a voice as Michael Gambon, is that people will immediately spot it, and then can’t get the thought out of their head that they have crossed into a completely different fandom and they’ll soon run into Harry Potter playing Quidditch. It sort of takes away the severity of the situation.

*Spoilers.

As soon as I was free from captivity, the first thing I did – like every other Elder Scrolls game I have ever played – was to attempt to loot every single body and chest I could find in the immediate area. Imagine the disappointment when I discovered that I was only able to loot very specific dead bodies, and it was never clear exactly what dead bodies I was able to loot. The same went for chests and – to my utter dismay – flowers. What is Elder Scrolls without the ability to skip through the country-side, ripping wings off butterflies, snatching fish out of the water, and generally sucking the area dry until there is not a single bud in bloom? Where is the immersion without the ability to shove every little piece of worthless crap in my seemingly bottomless backpack until, through some great feet of Tamriel physics, I’m hording over a hundred bottles of potions and fifty cast-iron kettles? How dare they take it away from me!

Feeling a little despondent, I manage through the dungeon and immediately look up. After the spectacle of the Skyrim night sky, I was almost expecting some sort of laser-light show that caused an epileptic seizure. Something with meteors and comets and exploding stars and maybe even one of those rainbow glitter curtains. Instead I was only greeted with a boring smudge of cloud. Even the sea looked a little lack-lustre, lazily lapping at the sand like it couldn’t give a damn. Likewise, the music was instantly forgettable. This year, YouTube will not be filled with renditions of the ESO soundtrack. It’s just back to looking at cats.

I was beginning to accept that all the little things that I loved from the Elder Scrolls were going to be snatched away from me. So I focused on the bigger picture – but unfortunately I was only met with a bigger disappointment. Was I enjoying this game? The answer was a very clear no. I found the game-play repetitive, the graphics were not awe-inspiring, the dialogue was skippable, and the controls felt a little wooden. Granted, it’s a Beta – I shouldn’t be expecting perfection – but after the outstanding success of Skyrim, I did expect something that would leave me anticipating the final release. The storyline is very playable, but I can’t help but feel it’s been wasted in this context.

Perhaps, I wondered, it is because I am not an MMO fan. This is a very different game genre to what I’m used to – and I shouldn’t expect the same experience as Skyrim and Morrowind. But when I asked those who do play World of Warcraft, or any of the other popular communities, they all said pretty much the same thing.

“meh.”

It’s not awful, it’s just not really that great. Unfortunately, being ‘not great’ in an online context will be a death sentence. With World of Warcraft still taking 50% of the genre’s subscribers, Bethesda needed something spectacular to bring in the crowds that would make them the money. This venture was always going to be a risk, but the community generally had faith. If any license could get away with it, it would be the Elder Scrolls. And I so want it to be true. However, it’s not true for me.

Instead I now have to wait patiently for their next big project. As much as I’d love the next Skyrim, I think it’s about damn time for Fallout 4.

The trailer was pretty wicked though…

 

Sorry, no blog post today. My Aida cloth arrived and I spent all day getting started on this:

 

Exploding Tardis Cross-stitch. For Nerd-Craft glory. May post updates of progress if I feel so inclined.

 

… but why I hope they’ll get there.

A review of Starbound

From some of the makers of the incredibly popular Terraria, comes Starbound – often referred to as Terraria‘s spiritual sequel. A space sandbox game, where you can dig and build and craft to your hearts content, create beautiful structures, discover lost caves, fight off huge monsters, or cut down a lot of trees.

Like Terraria, there is a very Minecraft-like element to it – you dig, and you build. Fortunately, there is less of an emphasis on digging this time, and more on exploring. You don’t necessarily have to ever pick up a pick-axe and go underground – many of the materials you’ll need can be found on the surface. But, of course, there are many adventures to be had underground. Where Terraria caught a lot of bad-press for being essentially a 2D Minecraft, it is a much harder to give Starbound such a label, but as a creative sandbox game, it is difficult not to compare it with the giant of the market.

Starbound is huge. You are not confined to a single planet, but once you refuel you can tackle galaxies. You can harvest material from across the universe, touch down on a beautiful, fresh planet and essentially turn it into your own personal canvas. And the number of materials and items that can be found and created is massive, despite the constrains of blocky 16-bit-style graphics. It greatly extends that of it’s predecessor, and could have the potential to extend that of Minecraft. This is a game where I could potentially clock in weeks of gameplay.

However – and it is a very big however – it is still only potential. It isn’t quite there yet. After Terraria, the controls feel blocky and unresponsive and the mechanics do not feel nearly as intuitive as that of other sandboxes. If you continue to compare the game to Terraria, it doesn’t have the same sense of direction, and often one can feel lost as to how to proceed. The balance hasn’t quite been found between a sense of exploring and an approachable world. Not to mention the difficulty level. With overly powerful monsters that attack you during the day, coupled with food issues, and even the possibility of freezing to death  – it all adds up into a very high likelihood that you won’t survive the first night. And, as it is beta, there are heaps of bugs. Servers constantly crash, the game takes forever to load and I think it’s trying to burn my computer out in an attempt to run. Not to mention (but then you should expect this from a beta) occasionally arriving to play the game, only to find your character has been deleted in the last update.

For now, stick to Minecraft, but perhaps in a few years the game will have balanced into something that might even compete with Notch. In the meantime it will be interesting to see how they progress, and if they manage to remain on the correct path.

… and why there seems to be a sim for everything nowadays.

a review of Cook, Serve, Delicious.

This is far from being the first cooking simulation I’ve played.

They’re usually pattern orientated, brightly coloured, and circle around the key game mechanic of time management. Can you get all the orders out perfectly, without pressing the wrong button, and before the customers get angry? Probably. The harder versions of these titles sometimes come with a problem-solving element, but most of them really cater to small children, or the ‘casual gamer’.

Purchased after watching Nilsey’s play through over at the Yogscast. As entertaining as we can expect from our favourite gaming Scot.

Cook, Serve, Delicious is an indie restaurant simulator where you have to cook and prepare food in a certain way to please your customers, and at a pace before they walk out. You earn money when they buy their food, which you spend on various upgrades and additions to your menu. An ‘element of difficulty’ is added with various chores, and the occasional robbery, but it’s pretty simple to play.

It almost feels like a typing game when you really get going. You can use the mouse, but it hardly feels the same as the soothing rhythm that switches your brain off (same sensation as watching soap operas) after a day sitting behind a desk doing the same sort of repetitive task you’re doing now. Because, unfortunately that’s what the game seems to simulate more closely. From I’ve deduced by listening to many good friends complain about their jobs in hospitality (and from what I hear, the complaints are always justified. I wouldn’t know, I had a ‘cooshy’ job in retail) hospo is rarely dull and repetitive. Usually it falls under the category of stressful and frustrating. The closest this game comes to stress is during ‘rush hour’, where you just have to press even more buttons in a short time. At least the colour pallet is inkeeping with the job, especially in the beginning. Dull and drab, and questionably meeting safety standards.

Progression is also a little slow – you cannot really progress any faster at the start once you’ve got the hang of it. Not only are there a number of other little goals to fulfill before your restaurant gains a star, but you also have to play for a certain number of in-game days. When you started perfecting everything at day three, having about seventeen days to go just seems pointless. You want more for a challenge, damn it.

Despite all this, it’s still a neat little time-waster. Does it quite meet the standards of a good simulation? Not really, since it isn’t really accurately simulating a restaurant scene. Is it worth the $10 on steam? I’d say it’s pushing the envelope a little. My advice is to pick it up on sale. That way you won’t feel so out of pocket when you inevitably get sick of it a few days later.

… and why you should be excited.

Due to a day spent playing too much Pokemon, I can only really express my excitement for the upcoming release of Broken Age – the point-and-click adventure by Double Fine. If you were hiding under a rock when the Kickstarter shook the gaming world. These are the same people who brought you the incredibly insane (but amazing) Psychonauts and this promises to have the same colourful aesthetic and creative humour.

If you’d like to see a snippet of the gameplay before you buy, check out Hannah’s early play through of Shay and Vella – our protagonists.

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